It is highly debatable whether graffiti falls under the definition of today's Wordsmith word "usufruct" but I took this picture this morning and afterwards, saw my word-a-day email. Close enough. From the Latin usus et fructus, use and enjoyment, the definition is "the right to use and enjoy another person's property without destroying it." I like the expression of satisfaction on this face, freshly sprayed on the side of an empty warehouse for sale nearby. I think of drawings I've seen by Ben Shahn, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso with just a few strokes of pen or brush. Last weekend, I saw a team of guys let out of a truck with brooms and rags and watched them fan out and clean, and it could be that the building is now sold, or about to be shown to the first interested buyer in years. I like the face of welcome on the loading dock, although I may be the only appreciative one.
It's hard to imagine the usufruct possibilities. I do think about the houseboats on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, whose owners do not have docking rights but are renting the spaces in front of properties belonging to others. Citizens of New York are not supposed to be living on their houseboats on the Gowanus, just using them for their enjoyment, and yet, I do think there is a resident ornithologist on one. As long as he or she doesn't fish the canal for supper like the beautiful egret I have seen, or like each year's mallard family, the cormorant, and the occasional swans bored with Prospect Park, I say stay where you are. You help make a polluted canal attractive.